Formula 1: The New Breed of Racing

A week ago, I was asked on the reading quiz about the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the word “football”. It wasn’t surprising that I talked about the big hits, crazy Hail-Mary’s, last minute game clinchers, and all the things that make football exciting. These aspects have shaped our perception of football and arguably have made football much more exciting to play and watch.

The Changing Rules of Football (Noncommercial reuse from Google)

The Changing Rules of Football
(Noncommercial reuse from Google for Creative Commons Guidelines)

That question was linked to the article about the changing rules and regulations in the NFL by Marc Tracy. His article emphasized three very controversial rule changes that not only caused quite the uproar in the football community but asked an important question as well: at what point do regulations, which unquestionably have a good intent, begin to adversely affect both playing and watching sports?  This got me thinking…

In another realm of sports, Formula 1 is prime example of a sport being ruined by society’s desire to keep players safe. Everyone, including myself, associates F1 to the exhilarating speed, the amazing passes, the sound of roaring engines, and the crashes that made F1 so epic.

Here is the old V8's that Formula 1 used before the rule change.   (Noncommercial reuse from Google Images)

Here is the old V8’s that Formula 1 used before the rule change.
(Noncommercial reuse from Google Images for Creative Commons Guidelines)

In Andrew Benson’s article about the changing rules in F1, he breaks down each rule change and how it has affected the community. He notes that engine displacements have decreased from 2.4 litre naturally aspirated V8’s to tiny 1.6 litre V6 turbos. This new engine regulation vastly caps the top speed of the cars to less than 200mph and is designed to limit crashes and keep drivers safer. While this rule change is designed to ensure safety, it clearly takes away the spirit of the sport that is supposed to be defined by on-the-edge racing and the looming dangers of racing at high speeds. Drivers can no longer push the bounds of speed while viewers cannot marvel at the high revving engines. In this YouTube video by user “krookzeh”, you can distinctively notice the difference in noise.

Pictured is the NEW Formula 1 V6.  Notice the addition of a turbocharger. (Noncommercial reuse granted from Google Images)

Pictured is the NEW Formula 1 V6. Notice the addition of a turbocharger.
(Noncommercial reuse granted from Google Images for Creative Commons Guidelines)

Yet in another rule change, we see how the governing body of Formula 1, FIA, has made a mockery of this sport with its changes in the name of safety. This change directly affects drivers. The new rule installs a new engine management computer (KERS) that automatically adjusts boost control so drivers don’t have to. The whole concept of F1 about driving skill and being able to negotiate at warp speed is now being challenged with this new rule change. More experienced drivers are at a disadvantage because they cannot use their superior driving ability to beat other racers. The FIA has simply taken the sport out of F1 racing, drivers are no longer judged by the ability but rather by their reliance on computers. Soon enough, you and I can both drive these cars and win without any experience.

Prototype design of the new wing FIA plans to implement.  Looks like an anteater right? (Noncommercial reuse by Google Images)

Prototype design of the new wing FIA plans to implement. Looks like an anteater right?
(Noncommercial reuse by Google Images for Creative Commons Guidelines)

Moreover, Formula 1 has made another rule change aesthetically to their race cars (they now look like anteaters) in the name of safety. The front wing has been lowered 415 mm to reduce the risk of T-boning and to prevent cars from being launched into the air.

Here is Jenson Button's F1 car with the old front wing. (Noncommerical reuse by Google Images)

Here is Jenson Button’s F1 car with the old front wing.
(Noncommerical reuse by Google Images for Creative Commons Guidelines)

This rule, and the rules I talked about before, all come at a time where the FIA has put an increasingly large amount of restrictions on what should be an otherwise free and open class setup for racing teams. In years back, racing teams were left to their own judgment to make their own racing setups for a variety of track conditions. This meant that engineers had to come up with more creative designs and ways for their team to get a competitive edge. We saw throughout many seasons the experimental aerodynamic changes many teams tried, the different tire compounds racers ran, and many other changes that racing teams tried. This is one of the reasons why F1 racing was so unique because it challenged teams to think outside of the box. The world of F1 was limitless and everyone loved it because you never knew what racing teams would do in the next race. It was exciting and exhilarating to see new racing setups being adopted by racing teams. In the old times, it wasn’t all about pure driving skill; it was how your team effectively engineered an efficient and fast machine.

Now it has completely changed. The FIA has constricted the world of Formula 1 racing to a very small and restricted sport. Its restrictions have taken the competitive nature out of racing and has made it difficult to judge racing teams on their pure skill and ingenuity. Conformity is now the standard and this sport is becoming lesser of sport because of it.

I see many parallels to Formula 1 after reading the article about the changing rules of the NFL.  Both rule changes are designed to ensure the safety of the players.  However, as a result of this, the spirit of the sport has been robbed.  We no longer enjoy what we conceptualized about each sport.

This is the changing dynamics of sports, believe it or not.  We are moving in this new direction, whether we like it or not.  All sports will be affected and in no time, our definition of sports will change.

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One comment

  1. bkriegsm · November 24, 2014

    I grew up loving Formula One. I think that the epic speeds, loud noises, and danger contribute to exhilarating and entertaining races. I love the connection to the NFL article. I want to push you however to think about the importance and impact that the new regulations placed on F1 will have on drivers. There have been a whopping 49 deaths in the sport since the early 50’s and that number increases every year. The innovations being made to Formula One are not entirely binding and restricting and don’t change the sport to the spectator. Indeed, a Formula One car with a 2.3 liter V8 can reach speeds of over 200 mph in a straight line drag strip that exceeds 4 or 5 miles long. However, these speeds are rarely, if ever, reached on a closed track. In my opinion, I don’t think the changes being made in Formula One racing are enough to completely change the sport as a whole. Tracy will argue that the game of football isn’t the same because the game is literally played differently. However, with breakneck speeds, tricky corners, and exhilarating engine sounds, formula one is staying just the same while improving the safety of its drivers and the efficiency of its cars.

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